US: A consortium of Western states is poised to store GIS data in commercial cloud computing environments to cut storage costs and improve efficiency. The Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA) and the National Association of State Procurement Officials, working in collaboration with the states of Colorado, Montana, Oregon and Utah, have awarded four contracts for GIS public cloud hosting services to Dell, Dewberry, Esri and Unisys.
WSCA is a 15-state consortium that helps participants join in cooperative purchasing agreements that extend across multiple states. Two years ago, WSCA issued a request for information seeking feedback from vendors on the technical and financial feasibility of hosting GIS data and services supported by the individual states in commercial cloud infrastructures. The states had three primary objectives for considering GIS cloud services: cost efficiencies, flexibility and scalability and reduction in staff support time.
“Part of what we learned in the RFI process was that [cloud hosting] was bigger than GIS,” said Robin Trenbeath, Montana’s geographic information officer. GIS has unique traits because the information is public, so it made it easier to move in that direction, he noted. But other apps or services are also ripe for migration to the cloud.
As a result, the WSCA contract for hosting services now goes beyond GIS to include general cloud hosting and infrastructure-as-a-service. So any government entity within the states’ various jurisdictions — cities towns, counties, tribal governments or even sewer districts — can use the same GIS cloud contract to obtain cloud hosting services from the vendors, Trenbeath said. In addition, the contracts are open to other approved states and federal agencies. (The states in the alliance are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.)
The agreement includes two vendors that specialise in GIS – Dewberry and Esri – and two that specialise in infrastructure and cloud hosting – Dell and Unisys, Trenbeath said. This is not to say that Dewberry couldn’t perform infrastructure-as-a-service or GIS servers can’t be put in Unisys’ infrastructure. The aim is to give states an alternative, so they can select the best cloud provider for the tasks they want to complete.